Prime Miniter Adderesses in International Conference

PM of India Shri Manmohan Singh Adderesses in International Conference Of Jurists On Terrorism, Rule Of Law And Human Rights - Following is the text of the address delivered by the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh while inaugurating International Conference of Jurists on Terrorism, Rule of Law and Human Rights in New Delhi today

“The rule of law and regard for due process and respect for fundamental Human Rights are the very foundation of any modern civilized society. These are enshrined in our magnificent constitution. But all these values are today threatened by the forces of terrorism. It is in this context that the subject of your conference is both timely and relevant to our times. There is an integral link between our defence of human rights, our defence of the rule of law and our fight against the forces of terrorism, extremism and intolerance.I have often said that terrorism anywhere is a threat to peace and freedom everywhere. This is an inevitable consequence of the increasing integration of global economy, polity and society. The forces of terrorism, inspired by ideologies of hatred, intolerance and exclusion, pose today a fundamental challenge to liberal democracies, pursuit of secular ideals , pluralism and all that we associate with freedom, the rule of law and human rights. They pose a challenge to democracy at home, to democracy in our region, to democracy around the world.

I believe therefore all peace-loving, democratic forces around the world have to join hands in the fight against all manifestations of extremism and intolerance. The threat of terrorism in this increasingly integrated world that we live in is not divisible. The fight against it is also not divisible. The defence of freedom and peace is also not divisible. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the international community for expressing its solidarity with the people of India in the wake of the horrible terrorist attacks at Mumbai. I have received phone calls and letters from numerous Heads of State and Government from all over the world and from our neighbourhood, assuring us that they stand with us in our fight against terrorism.

In our region, there is today growing awareness that terrorism and extremism pose a threat to democracy and development. Governments and authorities in our region and elsewhere have therefore a moral duty to act firmly and quickly. Our people expect us to stay united, stand united and act unitedly in the face of these grave challenges that we face. The greatest contribution of our freedom struggle and our national movement is the democratic inheritance we have got. Our freedom struggle was forged on the anvil of pluralism. Unity in diversity, was our defining motto. The Rule of Law and the Constitutional guarantee of fundamental human rights were the greatest gift we secured for ourselves as a free people.

It is these fundamental and defining features of our nationhood that are today challenged by the forces of extremism, irrespective of the ideology that inspires them. The time has come for all of us to unite and speak as one in defence of our democratic inheritance. The people of India have shown tremendous unity and courage in this critical hour. It is heartening that major political parties have also risen above their narrower interests to speak and work in a spirit of cooperation. The recent dastardly attack in Mumbai follows a pattern that has become all too familiar. There is an organized attempt by forces inimical to freedom and peace in our region to destroy Indian democracy by striking at the very roots of our nationhood. These terrorists seek to pit one community against another. There is a systematic effort to spread communal disharmony and conflict.

By weakening the fabric of our nationhood these terrorists seek to destroy our well-being and the foundation of our prosperity. There is a method to their madness. When cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Jaipur are targeted, the target is also India’s economic rise. When our economy is hurt, our people are hurt. Our democracy is hurt. When democracy is challenged in India it is a challenge to the human spirit the world over. Because there has been no greater social-political experiment in our time than India’s attempt to acquire economic strength and international stature within the framework of a plural and secular democracy.

We need to be resolute, and yet careful in our fight against terrorism. We need to understand the relationship between human rights and the fight against terrorism. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. They can and should go hand in hand. When in conflict, it is possible to resolve them. Systematic terrorists acts qualify as they must as crimes against humanity. They sometimes threaten national security. In certain circumstances, States are both entitled and obliged to take steps that seems to derogate from human rights principles. But we should not feel discouraged. Certain rights and freedoms can be derogated from, but only to the extent necessary to meet the security threat. The fight against terrorism should not result in brutalization of our society. We must also ensure that no group or section of society gets targeted in our commitment to fight terrorism. What is required is flexibility. It is a matter of national pride that in the midst of the tragedy of last month, our people across several States chose to exercise their franchise in state elections and demonstrate their faith in the Rule of Law and in our democratic system. Even in the State of Jammu & Kashmir we have seen record polling so far.

No greater testimony is needed to popular commitment to the Rule of Law and democracy in our country. For this very reason it is incumbent upon all of us, who discharge our responsibilities through various institutions of our democratic Republic, that we do so with utmost dedication and commitment. Our legislature, our executive and our judiciary, and indeed our civil society institutions, including media, have a responsibility for the proper functioning of our democracy. Democracy does not mean the exercise of one’s franchise once in five years. The Rule of Law is a continual process. Every day, every moment, in every place, a free people expect to see the Rule of Law prevail through the transparent and proper functioning of democratic institutions. There is no better insurance against the forces of extremism, intolerance and terrorism than the efficient and fair functioning of the institutions of democratic governance.

Each one of us has therefore a responsibility to discharge. There are attempts sometimes to justify violence in the name of the breakdown of the Rule of Law. Bad governance, non-transparency, corruption and the miscarriage of justice only give anti-social and anti-national forces greater opportunity to feign discontent and hatred. The answer to these inadequacies lies in the more efficient functioning of our institutions, not in their destruction. I therefore urge each one of us who values the ideas and ideals that define our nation and our Republic to ensure the proper functioning of our democratic institutions. This is imperative in our battle, I should say, in our war against terrorism and extremism.

I hope your conference will discuss these and other relevant issues and thereby contribute to a further strengthening of the foundations of our free society.”

The Prime Minister also gave away awards to eminent Jurists on this occasion. The Chief of Justices of India Dr K.G. Balakrishnan and the Minister of Law & Justice Shri H.R.Bhardwaj also spoke during the session.

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